The rates of Alzheimer’s disease have been rising over the last 10 years. Many experts fear that our healthcare system will be over-burdened in the coming years by a baby boomer generation affected by cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s dementia. Conventional and pharmacological approaches have shown limited benefits. There are a number of safe, natural, and effective approaches that can be used to prevent, slow and even reverse cognitive decline. The following are 6 key points to keep your memory sharp and brain healthy.
Eat a Heart healthy diet
Research has shown that your brain and cardiovascular health are related. Eliminate or reduce trans and saturated fats and refined sugars to improve the health of your blood vessels and balance your blood sugar. Shift your focus onto including healthy foods and not just reducing unhealthy ones. Increases your intake of healthy fats, which include omega 3 fish oils, nuts and seeds and olive oil. Also aim for 5 or more servings of colourful veggies a day
Studies show memory and brain function improves if your total caloric intake is reduced. The brain functions more efficiently if you lower the amount of calories you eat everyday by about 30%. This will also help you balance your blood sugar and lose extra weight.
The body and mind connection
Staying physically active improves memory and mental function. Benefits are found after about 20 minutes of light to moderate exercise a day. The key to exercise is not high intensity but rather consistency month after month. This may be one of the most effective ways to not just improve your memory but to boost your heart health and mood.
Use it or lose it
Keep your brain active with meaningful relationships, interactions and brainteasers. Puzzles and games are great tools to help prevent memory loss and keep you sharp. Online games found on websites such as lumosity.com are a great interactive resource.
Maintain optimal nutrient levels
Key vitamins and nutrients are essential to the health of your brain and memory. Make sure you have adequate levels of B-vitamins, vitamin D and antioxidants to protect your brain. Talk to your healthcare provider to help measure your levels.
Supplements to boost your brain
Finally, once you have put in place the above points there are a number of safe and possibly effective natural supplement options. Some of most promising compounds include acetyl L-carnitine, curcumin, and DHA (from fish oil). The most effective strategy is to talk to a qualified naturopathic physician about a supplement plan that is best for you. For more information about a personalized brain health plan contact Dr Paul Hrkal for more information.
To watch my Brain Fitness segment on Rogers TV Peel, featuring brain boosting supplements, games and recipes, Click here
Dr Paul Hrkal
It’s halfway through January and I hope your new years resolutions are in full swing. You may have noticed that the gym is more full and the yoga studio is a tighter squeeze. While I am a big fan of resolving to live a healthier life, I think New Year resolutions usually don’t last, leaving us frustrated. I wanted to give you some simple some resolutions that you will actually keep and will improve your health on multiple levels.
The key to successful resolutions is keeping them simple and achievable. This will increase your chance to actually stick with the changes you want to make. Start with small steps before jumping to lofty goals. Also, challenge yourself to be healthier not just in your body but also in your mind and spirit. We need to respect all aspects of who we are and not ignore essential parts of what makes us truly healthy.
1) Sweat more – This resolution seems simple but it actually covers a lot of key bases. Instead of resolving to exercise more, make a commitment doing something that gets your sweaty at least once a week. This could be doing a spin class at the gym, going for a run, lifting weights, or doing a yoga class. It can also be something very simple such as climbing a flight of stairs or going for a brisk walk. It will be different for each person but just as powerful. We often are afraid to get sweaty but it’s our body’s way to eliminate toxins and promote circulation. Don’t be afraid to sweat this year!
2) Eat less – I think we this is something we have all tried to do to lose a little weight. However, something so simple can be very helpful not just in cutting back on the extra calories but also promoting longevity. Studies have found that organisms that eat less live longer. Recent evidence shows that this approach promotes brain function and improves blood sugar control. Most North Americans over-eat so don’t fall into that trap this year and resolve to cut down your portions by as little as 20%. It doesn’t require calorie counting or weighing your food, just serve less food on your plate then you usually do.
3) Vent more – We can’t avoid getting irritated or angry. It can happen, especially when we are stressed and tired. The key thing is what we do with that anger when we experience it. A recent study found those people that internalized anxiety ran the risk of an elevated pulse, which increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and other ailments. This year resolve to vent or discharge your frustration or angry in a healthy way. This can be something like conscious deep-breathing, exercise or even try martial arts or yoga.
4) Sleep more – Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to maintain good health. Numerous studies have found that sleep improves immunity, increases the ability to cope with stress, and improves weight loss by cutting cravings. I often tell patients that the single, most powerful change you can make to improve your health is to go to bed one hour earlier. There are so many health benefits from making this simple resolution.
5) Be silent more – Just as you have to exercise regularly to build your muscle you have to also prioritize time to build your mind and spirit. The problem is that we are so use to getting things done by doing more, not slowing down and doing less. Taking the time to meditate, pray or just be silent is one of the most difficult things to do for most people. However, once you make it a habit it becomes the most rewarding. I challenge you to start with just 5 minutes a day to just sit and be still. Don’t do this right before bed or when you are distracted but rather be deliberate with putting aside time in your day. To focus on the right thing try this simple method. Pick one simple shape or image and focus on that thing in your mind. Take a stopwatch or timer (your smart phone has one) and start it. Every time you lose focus on that one image or shape, re-start the timer. You will be surprised how short your focus can be. Challenge yourself to do this daily and work towards getting up to 5 minutes without re-starting.
Making and keeping New Year’s resolutions does not have to be difficult. Implement these 5 simple changes and maintain them, even if you start by doing each one once a week. Remember, the road to failure is littered with good intentions. Make your 2013 resolutions simple and sustainable.
Have a healthy and happy New Year!
Dr Paul Hrkal
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